Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

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Sir Alex Ferguson believed in Jesse Lingard but his career is at a crossroads as West Ham loan looms

7 min read

Manchester United is known for developing stars in their famous academy system and Jesse Lingard was once regarded as one of their successful graduates.

United’s current squad is littered with academy stars, but each of them comes with a different back-story. Scott McTominay is learning his trade after breaking into the first-team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene in 2016.

Lingard, much like his team-mates, has an extensive backstory to his eventful life at Manchester United, but that time has come for him to either move on or prove his worth after his career at the club has stalled.

Jesse Lingard was once regarded as one of Man United's most successful academy graduates

Jesse Lingard was once regarded as one of Man United’s most successful academy graduates

Lingard established his place in United’s starting XI in 2017 after initially joining the club at just seven years old after being scouted during a Penketh United game.

Having progressed through the development programme – headed by Rene Meulensteen – Lingard represented United across each age group but struggled to take the next step into the senior squad.

Lingard once spoke about the heartbreak of thinking his career was over before it began… but continued to explain how Sir Alex Ferguson came to the rescue.

Lingard credited Sir Alex Ferguson for helping him overcome his rocky start to life as a pro

Lingard credited Sir Alex Ferguson for helping him overcome his rocky start to life as a pro

Lingard – who had struggled to break through into the senior squad due to his diminutive size – spoke about the difficulty of watching his team-mates get professional contracts by telling The Players Tribune: ‘When I turned 16, I saw a lot of my team-mates get pro contracts, but I wasn’t offered one. I was gutted.

‘Honestly, I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for Sir Alex. If it weren’t for the main man. One day, he had a meeting with me and my family. He sat us down in his office and he said, “It’s going to take a while for you, Jesse. We believe in you. But you’re going to have to be patient. You’re not going to be ready for the first team until you’re 22 or 23.” 

‘I can’t even tell you how massive that was for me and my family. You’d think I’d be disappointed, but when an absolute legend like Sir Alex says they believe in you, that means everything. He didn’t have to meet with us, and he didn’t have to say that to me.

‘But that’s why he’s Sir Alex, and that’s why Man United is Man United.’

In 2011 he was selected for the FA Youth Cup-winning side with the likes of Paul Pogba

In 2011 he was selected for the FA Youth Cup-winning side with the likes of Paul Pogba 

He scored the first goal of the final's first leg and demonstrated creativity in the second leg

He scored the first goal of the final’s first leg and demonstrated creativity in the second leg

Following his conversation with Ferguson, the youngster was selected for the 2011 FA Youth Cup-winning side that boasted players such as Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Michael Keane.

Having scored the first goal of the final’s first leg and demonstrated energy and creativity in the second, Lingard was finally awarded a professional contract at the club. 

He made his first appearance on Manchester United’s senior team sheet as an unused substitute in a League Cup quarter-final defeat against Crystal Palace in November 2011, before earning his debut three years later after loan spells at Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Louis van Gaal saw the promise Lingard represented and gave him his debut against Swansea

Louis van Gaal saw the promise Lingard represented and gave him his debut against Swansea

Lingard runs away in celebration after scoring a winner in the FA Cup final against Palace

Lingard runs away in celebration after scoring a winner in the FA Cup final against Palace

Louis van Gaal saw the promise Lingard represented and handed him his debut against Swansea on the opening weekend of the 2014-2015 season. However, it was in the 2015-2016 season that Ferguson was finally proved right.

Lingard started 40 games in all competitions during Van Gaal’s second season in charge. He provided six goals, with one being a 110th-minute winner in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace at Wembley. His goal won the club their first FA Cup since 2004 and their first trophy since the retirement of Ferguson.

In the 2016-2017 season the midfielder established himself as a Wembley specialist by opening the scoring in the 2-1 victory over Leicester in the Community Shield, before scoring in their 3-2 win in the League Cup final in January 2017. His contribution saw United pick up three different trophies in under a year.

Lingard poses with Juan Mata after his extra-time winner saw United lift the FA Cup in 2016

Lingard poses with Juan Mata after his extra-time winner saw United lift the FA Cup in 2016

Lingard started in England's 2018 knockout games against Colombia, Sweden and Croatia

Lingard started in England’s 2018 knockout games against Colombia, Sweden and Croatia

As a result, the United ace was rewarded for his impressive performances with his first call up to the senior England squad in November, before earning his first cap in a 2-0 win against Malta.

Lingard went on to establish himself as a mainstay in Gareth Southgate’s England squad in 2018 – starting against Tunisia and Panama in the Three Lions’ opening two World Cup group games in Russia, before becoming one of the first names on the team-sheet during their knockout games against Colombia, Sweden and Croatia en route to their semi-final defeat.

Wearing the famous No 7 shirt, Lingard was more established in Gareth Southgate’s preferred 3-5-2 formation than the likes of his United team-mate Marcus Rashford.

The midfielder continued to thrive in 2018, as he scored a total of eight goals for United during their most successful season and highest league finish since the retirement of Ferguson.     

Lingard became an expert as scoring against Arsenal - bagging a brace in a 3-1 win for United

Lingard became an expert as scoring against Arsenal – bagging a brace in a 3-1 win for United

However, the turn of 2019 saw Lingard's form drop dramatically as he began to struggle

However, the turn of 2019 saw Lingard’s form drop dramatically as he began to struggle

However, the turn of 2019 saw Lingard’s impressive form drop dramatically with the United star struggling enormously – something Ferguson hadn’t predicted.

The midfielder only scored a consolation goal in United’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool which sealed Mourinho’s departure. He also failed to register an assist across the entire season.

Lingard looked ready to revive his career during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge, scoring twice against Cardiff… but the midfielder’s resurgence never materialised and he eventually lost his place in the team.

He looked set to regain form when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first game saw Lingard net twice

He looked set to regain form when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game saw Lingard net twice

The 28-year-old suffered the same fate with Southgate’s England side – with the likes of Mason Mount, James Maddison and Callum Hudson-Odoi overtaking him on the international scene.

Not only has the midfielder’s reputation on the pitch suffered, so has his reputation off it. The United star had been widely criticised for the clip which saw him boast about sexual activity while on holiday in the US.

The clip was filmed during an off-season holiday in Miami, with Lingard, Rashford, former Man United youth player Ro-Shaun Williams and friend Jamal Branker.

Branker was recorded replicating a sex act on a hotel bed. Lingard – who filmed the situation and posted it on Snapchat – was widely criticised for uploading the footage despite the offensive content.

Jesse Lingard was subjected to vile abuse after Manchester United's win at Derby

United fans were filmed abusing Lingard as he boarded the team coach and some Twitter users have claimed to have heard a racial slur in the shocking video

Lingard has lost the appreciation of the fans, having been subjected to abuse on the team bus 

Furious United fans branded him as a ‘b***end’ after the video clip went viral on social media. As a result of the tasteless clip, Lingard’s JLingz clothing brand made a £200,000 loss in a year.

2020 proved to be no better for the midfielder, as Lingard received a foul-mouthed slaughtering of abuse from fans after the 3-0 victory at Derby in the FA Cup.

Lingard was targeted outside the team bus by several individuals who fired a series of insults at him.

One person shouted ‘f*** off, Jesse, you’re s***’ over and over again, while another barked ‘zero goals and zero assists in 2019, you’re dead’.

While his most recent embarrassment came when social media users ridiculed him for bizarrely promoting pistachio nuts while wishing his American fanbase a happy Thanksgiving.

Jesse Lingard has previously been mocked online for his bizarre Thanksgiving Twitter post

Jesse Lingard has previously been mocked online for his bizarre Thanksgiving Twitter post

The Manchester United midfielder took to social media to post a series of pictures of himself with a turkey covered in pistachios, leaving fans to poke fun at the advert.

Celebrity chef Dean Edwards, who has appeared on ITV’s ‘Lorraine’ and ‘This Morning’, even pointed out that the midfielder had forgotten to take the shells off before covering the turkey in them.

Having lost the confidence of both the fans and the manager, Lingard has hired super-agent Mino Raiola. Such a move suggests he is aware of his downfall at United and that he must move on to find his form – something that is set to happen in the coming days.

There is no doubt that Lingard can offer a lot to a team when playing at his best but he must open a new chapter to do so. 

Having lost the confidence of the fans and manager, Lingard has hired agent Mino Raiola

Having lost the confidence of the fans and manager, Lingard has hired agent Mino Raiola

David Moyes (right) will hope that he can be the man to revitalise Lingard's career at West Ham

David Moyes (right) will hope that he can be the man to revitalise Lingard’s career at West Ham 

Lingard shared a picture on social media of his packed bags and the caption 'Hammer Time'

Lingard shared a picture on social media of his packed bags and the caption ‘Hammer Time’

And that chapter is set to begin in east London with West Ham. Despite interest from the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and further afield in Europe, United have agreed terms with the Hammers on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Talks weren’t easy between the two sides, with United asking for a £1.5m loan fee plus the entirety of the midfielder’s £80,000-a-week wages to be paid by West Ham, but eventually the sides came to an agreement.

It’s fair to say that Lingard’s career has hit a fair few stumbling blocks, but now is the time for him to prove his worth in new surroundings.

West Ham represents his golden chance to rise back to the top, and prove to Solskjaer and Co that he can offer plenty at Old Trafford. 

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